Now that a quarter of the Championship season is done and dusted, and despite Warburton’s wise change of tact (following his initial concession that beating Falkirk was a ‘statement of intent’ to win the title) to warn off complacency, Rangers’ outstanding manager will be quietly informing the players this title is theirs to lose.
Rangers, barring a collapse of simply unacceptable and borderline preposterous levels, will be in the SPL next season – miles away the best side in the Championship, and it is no tempting of fate to state this factually.
Consequently attention, even at this early juncture, turns to which current squad members are capable of making the step up immediately.
Chairman Dave King famously said at the start of the transfer window that he only wanted to sign players readily equipped to cope with the upgrade to SPL, and to that end Rangers brought in a glut of relative unknowns, many of whom have impressed massively.
So which players are evidently good enough for the SPL, and which ones still have to prove themselves or are just plain insufficient?
Starting at the back, and Wes Foderingham. He has got better and better after an uncertain and shaky start, but he is one of the hardest to judge such is the little he actually has to do in most matches. He has made some very good saves indeed, but it is near impossible to say with certainty whether or not he could cope with the SPL.
At right back, James Tavernier. A simple yes. No further comment required.
Next come the centre-backs. Neither has really shone, and equally they have not done poorly – but Danny Wilson has SPL, EPL, UCL and English Championship experience, which puts him in a stronger position. Rob Kiernan is similar to Foderingham – the jury is probably out on him.
Lee Wallace – yes. Easy enough.
Off to midfield now and Andy Halliday. He has been very, very good out of position, if a tad wasted there, and has plenty of experience at a high enough level to cope with the step up.
Next, Gedion Zelalem – has strolled through the season half asleep. Would be fascinating to see him tested more at the higher level. Pity he is incredibly unlikely to still be here next summer given he is a loan.
Nicky Law – he came from the SPL and was good there; much improved this season but not a favourite of Warbs. Is he good enough for an SPL Rangers? Jury is out, but veering towards no.
Jason Holt – been excellent and clearly capable of life in the SPL.
Dean Shiels came from the SPL but in truth this is his fourth season at Ibrox and he is yet to cement a starting berth – under four different managers in that time. Major doubt whether he would be favoured at that level.
Kenny Miller – shows signs of good work deeper behind the strikers but his composure has deserted him and he struggles to net. Not getting any younger. This is probably a no.
Martyn Waghorn – yes, yes, and yes.
Barrie McKay – easy yes, yet again.
Nathan Oduwa – probably will not be at Ibrox next season unless loan is extended, but Oduwa is a very schizophrenic player – he is either explosively good on the point of genius, or he is abysmal and nothing comes off for him. But his attitude is first-rate and the lad never hides. Always tries.
The ‘leftovers’ are the likes of:
Dominic Ball – probably not, but a loan anyway.
Fraser Aird – probably not, gone backwards.
Nicky Clark – has not been good enough in any previous league for Rangers, has no chance of SPL.
Cammy Bell – has in truth probably played his last game for Rangers.
Ryan Hardie – has barely featured in the past month or so – starting to fade. So probably not.
Tom Walsh – see Hardie.
Jordan Thompson – see Hardie and Walsh.
David Templeon – are you serious?
So, overall, the verdict is:
James Tavernier, Lee Wallace, Andy Halliday, Jason Holt, Gedion Zelalem, Martyn Waghorn, Barrie McKay.
Wes Foderingham, Danny Wilson, Nathan Oduwa.
Jury’s out/probably not:
Rob Kiernan, Nicky Law, Dean Shiels, Frasier Aird, Dominic Ball, Ryan Hardie, Tom Walsh, Jordan Thompson, Cammy Bell, Kenny Miller.
David Templeton, Nicky Clark
If/when Rangers achieve promotion, the current squad, while definitely on the right lines, will most certainly require significant surgery. As it stands this Rangers team would be bottom six – probably safe from relegation but nowhere near fighting for the title. But a few choice additions under the wisdom of the Magic Hat, and top six awaits before the sky is the limit.
These are exciting times for Rangers fans – but what do Ibroxnoise.co.uk readers think? Who do you consider to be good enough?